“It’s not that I’m afraid of farms,” I explain to my companion, who’s been eyeing me suspiciously since I confessed my City Mouse mistrust of Bar(n)‘s (76 St. Marks Avenue, Brooklyn) rural-chic, whitewashed back room. “Just the Sling Blade–Ethan Frome type of farms,” I insist. Besides, who wants to be reminded of wrath-of-God sledding accidents and forbidden love during a night out in Park Slope? OK, perhaps I am a little afraid of farms, and maybe I shouldn’t be weirded out just because I’m sitting in a dark barn in the inner city. After all, the Slope, with its Food Co-op, sprawling farmer’s market, and Barbés hootenannies, is the closest thing to a downstate Catskills that Brooklyn has to offer. Talk about researching location and demographics: This bar/barn fits right in—especially since it’s adjacent to Flatbush Farms, a newly opened restaurant—and has early-thirties patrons flocking to its warm, dim interior like geese flock to . .. well, the South.
Those more familiar with Lake Wobegon Days and apple-pie-eyed youths should not, however, expect to find their grandma’s thrifty shepherd’s pie and beer at this new kibbutz. As far as comfort foods go, the fare is decidedly on the upscale side; the specialty drink is a homebrew limoncello ($7) and our dinners—prepared next door at the Farm—are highbrow bird and pig: cast-iron half-chicken with creamy grits ($18) and pulled pork with biscuit and collard greens ($18). Embracing a “develop, don’t destroy” view of gentrification, the six beers on tap include two Red Hook natives: Six Point Bengali and Six Point Brownstone ($6 each). Cocktails like the Ciccone Boom, a lemony prosecco on the rocks ($8), share a bill with “the champagne of beers” that Miller High Life serves up for three bucks in a can.
Though potentially uneasy on the wallet, the bar(n) is extremely gentle on the eyes. Golden electric bulbs on chains barely cast a yellow gleam on the front room’s medieval dark wood, lending a dreamy, conspiratorial accent to conversations overflowing from the back room’s Shaker tables.
The great mystery, however, is the bar’s mystically dark back garden. Though a sign proclaims the yard’s open till midnight, at 8 p.m. on the night we visited its string of lights hung fallow, and an array of empty chairs and benches sat out the early spring with just the diffusion of color from upper-story windows to help one pick a Riding Hood path through the trees. A little plot of peace in a sometimes harrowing city is nothing to shake a Williamsburg address at, and, though there’s not much light to read a menu by at this haven, the barn gods provide enough candlelight for the oldest crimes: stealing kisses and killing time.